Swim England

A nation swimming

It came as an absolute shock ... emotional Tony honoured by King Charles

The King’s Birthday Honours List 2024 has been published – and members of the aquatics community have been recognised for their services to swimming, including Wolverhampton’s Tony Ward. 

Technical official Tony Ward almost mistook the letter informing him he was to receive a British Empire Medal in the King’s Birthdays Honours List as election campaign material.

“This letter came and I looked and I took no notice,” said Tony. “I thought because we’re talking about the General Election it was another circular.

“I must say [when I opened it], it came as an absolute shock.

“It felt very emotional because I put a lot of time into swimming and for someone to recognise what I’m doing feels good.”

Swimming has been a huge part of Tony’s life for more than five decades.

He was a competitive swimmer himself before getting involved in the organisational side of things and has been a director at Swim England’s Masters National Championships and the British Masters Championships.

As Tony approaches his 70th birthday, the sport continues to play a key part in his life.

He will be heading to Paris this summer to act as technical delegate for the swimming competition at the Paralympic Games.

“I have been to four Paralympic Games now, three as referee and one as assistant technical delegate for World Para-swimming,” said Tony, a member of Black Country n Potteries Masters Swimming Club.

“Come Paris, I’m the technical delegate. I specialise in the para-swimming side, which is a very interesting side of swimming as it’s very technical.

A big thank you

“The responsibility is making sure that the swimmers, the athletes get a fair competition and the set up is right for them.

“I want to make sure that the athletes get the best they can.”

The sport also runs through Tony’s family.

His wife, Helen, took the technical officials course at the same time as Tony, while his daughters have also been referees.

It’s not just swimming, however, that Tony devotes his time to – he is also a blood biker, transporting blood or other important medical supplies to and from hospitals.

He has no idea who nominated him the honour but when asked what he would say to them, he said: “It’s clearly a big thank you.

“From what I understand, I think it has to be one person dealing with it [the nomination] but other people supporting it as well

“There’s obviously a community thing there somewhere that a lot of people thought he’s worthy of something.

“I’m absolutely certain my family will be delighted because they’re all in swimming as well.”

Alongside Tony, Paralympian Rebecca Redfern, coach Dave McNulty and long-serving Brighton Dolphins Swimming Club’s Audrey Taylor have also been honoured by King Charles.